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Spring care of strawberries21 April 2011
THE TRADITIONAL times for planting strawberries was always early autumn or late winter, but these days you can buy young plants from garden centres almost all-year-round, and mid-spring is a key time in the maintenance of existing plants. Here are the main points to watch for:
• Flowers: To start with the flowers are appearing now and of course the more flowers you have the better the fruiting. Do as little as you can to disturb or damage the flowers – late spring frosts or cold winds do enough damage to these without human interference! If you get up one morning and see that the centre of a flower has turned black, it has been too cold and has been destroyed – no fruit from that bloom!
• Weeding: Remove as many weeds (annual and perennial) as possible. This is why it is better, if you have the space, to grow strawberries in rows rather than as ‘patches’. Rows are easier to weed. If hoeing, make sure you don’t get too close to plants, or to damage the surface roots.
• Mulching: Use straw or special fibre mats to spread under your plants to keep the swelling berries of the soil. Mulches can be applied at any time from the moment the flower the flower start
• Feeding: Using a tomato fertiliser, with a high potash content, throughout the growing season will improve flower quality and both the flavour and colour of fruit.
Start to apply this now, and do so every couple of weeks. Strawbs in growing bags will also need an occasional general feed.
NEW STRAWBERRY plants can be set out now. Mark out a planting row with a garden line, setting plants 12-15in (30-38cm) apart. Trim any over-long roots, but they should be no shorter than 4in (10cm) long.
Take out a planting hole, with a trowel, and put the plant in, making sure that the crown is level with the soil surface. Backfill with the soil, and firm the plant in place with your fingers. Water thoroughly, and keep plant well watered until new leaves appear.
New plants should have their first flush of flowers removed so the plants crop well in their second year.